Following the Rules

It's time for a little trash talk. 

Thursday is trash pickup day on our street.   Last Wednesday evening, I wheeled my City-issued garbage bins to the curb.  

By Thursday evening, the green recycling bin was empty but the blue garbage bin was still full.  So I filed the online form to report a missed trash pickup.

On Friday morning the bin was emptied, but this sticker was affixed to the lid:


My trash was NOT ACCEPTED, the note stated, because of “late put out”  (the same reason, I suppose, that I had trouble finding dates in high school).   The handwritten note on the sticker went on to chide, “You need to put before 7:00 Please.”

Late put out?   I don’t think so! I fussed and fumed, and logged on to the Newton city website to write back.  How DARE they accuse me of the transgression of late put out!!   My trash had been out for nearly 11 hours before the 7:00 am deadline!  I don’t mind when people make mistakes; but I do mind when they blame those mistakes on others!!

But then I thought about it, thought about the garbage guy (oh, sorry  -- “sanitation engineer”, to use the City's words) trying to cover his ass when his supervisor yelled at him for forgetting a house.  Poor guy is just trying to earn a living.   What does it matter to me?   They DID eventually pick up my trash, after all.   I closed the browser window and let it ride.

A few hours later, however, adding insult to injury, the City of Newton followed up the sticker with a finger-wagging email, scolding me for putting my trash bins out late.  


The email invited me to RESPOND ABOVE THE LINE – so this time I did.   I poured out all my righteous indignation above that line and sent it back.

And now I am waiting for the City to respond.   When are they going to write back and acknowledge that I did follow the rules after all?   I am checking my email far too often, looking for this response.

Why in the world do I care?

As long as I can remember, I have been a rules-follower.  When I was four years old, we had a wonderful babysitter named Beth.   It was 1969 and Beth had long hair and played "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" on her guitar.  At four, it didn't occur to me that the song was about the futility of war.  To me it was about flowers.  And in fact, I knew perfectly well where all the flowers had gone:  they were on the fabulous beaded necklaces that Beth wore, necklaces that she made herself.   Here's a picture of just such a necklace that I found on Etsy (from jewellrybyjora, in case you're in the market):

Flowers!   And beads!!!! How I loved those necklaces.  And then, when I was about to turn five, Beth promised to make me a beaded flower necklace for my birthday.  Could there be any greater miracle?

Then I started to churn the matter over in my almost-five-year-old mind.   Such a wonderful creation as a beaded flower necklace was bound to get attention when I wore it around town.   But as a homemade item the necklace would come to me without documentation.    How would the police know that I came by it honestly?   Surely they would assume that I’d stolen it!    Obviously, the only way to avoid a life behind bars was to refuse this long-coveted and most generous gift, because it would not come with a receipt.

For some reason the obvious logic of this conclusion eluded the adults in my orbit.

My compulsive need to observe the rules has persisted for half a century.   I do most of my blog-writing in a downtown coffee shop, while sipping a soy latte, which is much more delicious if you can skim off some of the foam with a spoon.

Here is the counter where I pick up my drink:

The spoons live on the far side of the counter.  

The first time I ordered a coffee here, I just reached over and took one, earning a glare and a scolding from the generously-tattoed barrista.   “Next time,” she said, “ask us first.”

OK.  So now I ask first, quite politely.   Only this week, when I asked the generously-tattooed barrista of the moment for a spoon, I earned another glare as he said with a sneer of his pierced lip, “they’re right there!   Just take one!”  

I opened my mouth to explain, but then stopped.  Because what’s the point, really?   I've been around long enough to know that following the rules does not always yield the anticipated or hoped-for results, in work, in love, or in the consumption of sanitation engineering services.   Now that I'm 50, it's high time that I stop trying to be a good girl.

Ask forgiveness, not permission:  that's my new credo! 

If I need a spoon for my coffee, I will reach out and take one!  

I may even put my leaf bags on the curb without rolling them closed!

And Beth, if you're out there:  I AM READY FOR MY BEADED FLOWER NECKLACE!  

I can generate a receipt on my computer, and we can both sign it.  I'm sure the authorities will find it perfectly adequate.



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